I still remember back in 2013, watching MasterChef UK, and being mystified by one particular dish. It was a rabbit salad dish prepared by a solicitor named Rukmini, who was known for her gorgeous plating and really delicious flavors. Back then, I really had no idea what it meant to make a plate look whimsical or creative. But seeing this rabbit loin with a variety of root vegetables, an edible soil, and a bagna cauda, it was pretty gorgeous. It honestly was one of the biggest inspirations for me that savory food could be plated as beautifully as desserts! These little baby carrots, tucked beneath the edible soil, so that you can pluck them out of the ground, it was gorgeous.
While the presentation was amazing, the one thing Rukmini did get dinged on was the bagna cauda itself. It just did not go over well. So for my rendition, I’m going with a Caesar dressing inspired aioli instead, since that uses the same flavor profiles as a bagna cauda, but it has more flavor as well as body. For the soil, I’m going to do a charred onion soil, since I know how to do that and I know that the flavors will be very pleasant. For my vegetables, I’m going with radishes and rainbow carrots, just to keep it simpler. With the rabbit loin, the seasoning will be more on the Mediterranean side with za’atar, just to make it pop a little more. Rabbit can be so gamey, so the fresh punchiness of za’atar can sort of draw that away. I named the dish “The Kitchen Garden” after Cyril Douay’s song of the same name (you’ll recognize it as the theme song from “The Mind of a Chef”!), since it is such a fitting name for the dish.
For the aioli:
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove roasted garlic
1 anchovy filet
1/2 tablespoon pickling liquid from the beets
2 rabbit kidneys*
If using the kidneys, sear on each side for 1 minute. Puree into a creamy consistency. Strain. Transfer to either a squeeze bottle or piping bag.
For the carrot puree:
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons brown butter
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
a pinch of salt
Cook down the carrots in turmeric and cream until soft. Puree with brown butter, mascarpone, and salt. Pass through a sieve.
For the roasted carrots:
1 carrot, cut into batons
1 teaspoon coriander
Sear the carrot in a pan first, then transfer to an oven at 400 degrees F for finish roasting until soft.
For the charred shallot soil:
1/4 cup diced shallot
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
a pinch of salt
Char the diced onions in a nonstick pan lined with olive oil. Puree with the panko and season. Spread onto a sheet tray and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.
For the rabbit:
1 rabbit loin
Heavily season the rabbit loin with salt and pepper. Heat up a pan and then add in your oil. Sear the rabbit loin on each side for 1 1/2 minutes (for a total of 6 minutes). Lower your heat, add in the butter, paprika, and za’atar and baste the loin 20 times. Rest before slicing into medallions.
For the salad:
Radish greens, punched with a 1/2 inch circle cutter
Raw radishes, cut into quarters
Shaved rainbow carrots
To plate, start with the carrot pure on the bottom. Pipe dollops of the aioli and place the rabbit medallions on those. Top with soil, roasted carrots, and the shaved carrots. Garnish with radishes and radish greens.